Ready to Row


When someone asks “what do you want to do?” on a summer weekend, the answer invariably includes a water-related activity. What comes right to mind for me are Barton Springs, Deep Eddy, “Did you call (insert name of friend with boat)”, paddleboard or kayak, or, if all else fails, hide out in A/C.

Something to add to that list is rowing. Any opportunity to include “fun” and “workout” is checking two things on the “to do today” list at once. Rowing = fun, check; workout, check plus.

For an activity to be fun, I have to be somewhat good at it. Even if it’s super-beginner good. Like, “she doesn’t know what she’s doing, but she looks strong doing it.” While perhaps not ideal, this is acceptable. I have come to terms with my general lack of finesse, and prefer to focus on enjoying strength and power. These things abound in rowing. What a workout.

We tapped the brain of Ricci Newland, fitness specialist extraordinaire at Pure Austin Fitness. Newland is a longtime expert in sports and strength conditioning and a perfectionist at getting premium results for his clients.

He demonstrated for us four exercises that you can do in the gym to complement your on-the-water workout, for those days when you can’t make it to the boat.

First, there’s the simple but ever-effective deadlift. While it’s one of the primary weightlifting moves, if not done correctly this can cause back strain or injury. Here, the back is kept straight and the weight is really felt in the heels. The movement is going to work the whole leg, so – keep your mental focus there. Keep the core tight and weight in the heels before lifting off the ground. When lifting up, the bar will graze along the front of your legs to full upright extension. As a general strength exercise, do three to four sets of 10 to 12 reps. Keep your focus on good form, not heavy weight, until you feel com- fortable with this great leg exercise.

Next, Newland demonstrates seated medicine ball rotations. Again, these are great for rowing, but also great for looking good anywhere this summer. The legs can be bent on the floor for a basic level, or elevated and bent or straight to increase the intensity. The core remains tight and straight – the lower towards the floor the core, the harder the exercise. Then, holding a medicine ball weighing anywhere from four to 16 lbs., Newland touches the ground on either side of his body. This is great for general core and hip flexor strength. Note how his chest is pressing up towards the ceiling, – he is not collapsing in his back, and his core is obviously strong. Chicken or the egg?

The next exercise even looks like rowing. Here, Newland shows a seated row on the Bosu. Just by sitting on the Bosu,he is instantly engaging his smaller muscles for balance. Then, adding the row, he is strengthening his lats and mid-thoracic. With a straight back, and arms, he leans forward, maintaining a strong core and getting a great hamstring stretch to boot. As he leans back, he is bringing the bar to his upper chest. Again, as a general strength-building exercise, this should be done for three to four sets of 12 to 15 reps with a focus on technique.

Newland saves the best for last. Here, he is doing a box step-up with a row-specific technique. Note, his body is angled slightly forward – to get more of the action in his quadriceps. He leans forward, feeling his bodyweight in the quad and glute, and keeping his chest up, not collapsed. He also isn’t coming into full extension on the top leg. It’s a quick tempo-ed, up and down, “pumping” motion. Try this for three sets on each leg, 10 to 12 reps each.

Run through these exercises a couple times a week when you can’t hit the water, and you can impress your friends with all your new- found strength. And, you will want to
add rowing to that list of “what to do?” next weekend!